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Jan 28, 2013

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Are All Children REALLY Artists?

Can any adult become an artist?  Can anyone learn how to draw?

If you are like most art teachers, these question have a very passionate answer…YES!  YES!  YES!  I believe that every student has artistic potential and that art skills can undoubtedly be taught.  They may come more naturally to some, but that is the case with any skill.  Teaching these skills is the purpose behind our jobs, right?  (I mean, along with creative thinking, artistic interpretation, cross-curricular connections, empathy, problem-solving, etc.)  I bring up this very passionate and sometimes downright emotional subject for two reasons.

child artist

I want to discuss a pet peeve of mine.  It has to do with non-art teachers.  Have you ever heard other teachers say things to their students like, “I can’t draw a straight line,” or  “I only draw stick people.,” or “I can’t draw that and I don’t think you can draw that either.”  It is enough to make me want to pull out my hair!  You would never hear a teacher say, “Math is hard.” (Didn’t Barbie get into pretty deep trouble for that one?) Or “I don’t like to read” or “I can’t understand science.”  Why is this such a double standard?  The answer is it shouldn’t be, but most likely the other teachers in your building are unaware of what they are doing to your program and your credibility as a teacher.  Which leads me to my next item.

It is up to you to educate your colleagues.  Several years ago I was asked to present at a faculty meeting about the art department, curriculum, etc.  At first, I was kind of shocked and intimidated, but then I saw this opportunity for what is was.  I was always asking students and teachers what they were working on in their classrooms, this was my opportunity to make teachers aware of what is happening in mine and how they can support me!  Novel idea, right?  I put together a short presentation that included images, statistics and short clips of students working in art.  To set the mood, I included this short advocacy commercial from Americans For The Arts.  Check it out below!

Not to brag, but you could hear a pin drop during my presentation.  They were fascinated!  I ended the program by listing what they could do to support me and included a bit about how important it is to discuss art skills in a positive and supporting light with students.

This is the essence of art advocacy.  Spreading the word from the ground up!  For more simple and practical ideas of how to advocate for a better and stronger art program, check out AOE’s Advocating for the Arts online class beginning February 1. Learn more right here.

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic.

Is every child really an artist? 

Can you teach anyone how to draw? 

How do you educate your colleagues about the importance of art education?

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  • http://www.theartofed.com/ Jessica Balsley

    Heather- This quote below from your article captivated me the most. It’s something
    that will stick with me for a long time. I would challenge every art teacher to call out anyone who downplays the arts from now on. We must stand up for our subject matter if we want to be taken seriously. Thank you for inspiring us today!

    “Have you ever heard other teachers say things to their students like, “I can’t draw a straight line,” or “I only draw stick people.,” or “I can’t draw that and I don’t think you can draw that either.” It is enough to make me want to pull out my hair! You would never hear a teacher say, “Math is hard.”

    • stella

      I like this article! It really is important to educate other teachers and administration about what we do in the art room. However, the little Van Gaughgurt video claims that art helps math and reading skills. There is no conclusive research that indicates more or better art instruction causes reading/math improvement. However Lois Hetland’s book

      Studio Thinking: The Real Benefits of Visual Arts Education
      gives some really good, solid reasons, and more supportable reasons for art education. Check it out!

  • Gena Smith

    Wow, I would love to watch the entire Powerpoint presentation you did and/or read your speech. This is an incredible idea to use this as an opportunity for advocacy! Love it!

    • http://www.theartofed.com/ Heather Crockett

      Thanks! I will do some digging and see if I can find it…

  • http://profiles.google.com/ashmom623 Angela Harris

    Oh yes! I’ve had people say,” you shouldn’t have grades in art. Some kids just can’t draw.” No, some kids find art more challenging, just as some kids find reading challenging, or math, but we don’t say, “They just can’t multiply.”

    • http://www.theartofed.com/ Heather Crockett

      Great point!

  • troutgirl

    It is truly and daily uphill battle on many levels-schedules, teachers, parents, districts etc. I always have to remind myself that the students FEEL it and know how important it is to make things. And that I know in my own heart that we are serving these students both academically and emotionally.

  • Kim

    Thank you for inspiring us!!
    I really love this!
    IF possible, I hope to have the opportunity to view your slides!
    Do let me know how.
    Thank you again!